Education or Trauma: Debating the Movie Presentation of "Till"Historians in the News
tags: racism, African American history, lynching, Emmett Till
The first time historian Keisha N. Blain taught a lesson on Emmett Till, she cried. Blain remembers feeling “completely embarrassed” about the moment.
“It was hard for me to present this history that I knew they needed to know,” Blain says. “It just hit me in this powerful way that I started crying.”
Despite the difficult nature of Till’s story, the Brown University professor says the upcoming film about his brutal murder is essential viewing.
“Till” is set to be released in October 2022. When the trailer dropped in July, it was met with some sharp criticism on Black Twitter: Some users debated the film’s necessity while others declared they wouldn’t watch it due to the traumatic and disturbing subject matter.
But Blain feels the film is important.
“I think the timing is perfect because it helps to provide the historical context first,” she says. “The reality is that we can't assume that all Americans are aware of [Till’s] story and of this particular history.”
In 1955, 14-year-old Till was brutally murdered while visiting family in Mississippi. While specific details preceding the murder remain unclear, Till allegedly whistled at Carolyn Bryant, a shop clerk. Days later, Bryant’s husband and brother-in-law kidnapped Till, beat him, and shot him before tossing his body in the Tallahatchie River.
Three days later, Till’s corpse was uncovered, disfigured beyond recognition save for a ring he was wearing at the time. Till’s mother, Mamie Till-Mobley, decided on an open casket for her son, exposing the country to what had happened to her boy.